The Spanish Civil War


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The Spanish Civil War

  2. 2. QUESTIONS AND ANALYSIS IN HISTORY Edited by Stephen J. Lee, Sean Lang and Jocelyn Hunt Other titles in this series: Imperial Germany, 1871–1918 Stephen J. Lee The Weimar Republic Stephen J. Lee Hitler and Nazi Germany Stephen J. Lee Parliamentary Reform, 1785–1928 Sean Lang The English Wars and Republic, 1637–1660 Graham E. Seel British Foreign and Imperial Policy, 1865–1919 Graham Goodlad The French Revolution Jocelyn Hunt The Renaissance Jocelyn Hunt Tudor Government T. A. Morris The Cold War Bradley Lightbody Stalin and the Soviet Union Stephen J. Lee
  4. 4. First published 2000 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” © 2000 Andrew Forrest All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Forrest, Andrew, 1947– The Spanish Civil War / Andrew Forrest. p. cm. – (Questions and analysis in history) Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index. 1. Spain–History–Civil War, 1936–1939. I. Title. II. Series. DP269.F62 2000 946.081–dc21 99–056393 ISBN 0-203-13463-X Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-203-17944-7 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-18211-5 (Print Edition)
  5. 5. To my parents with love and gratitude for their friendship and encouragement
  6. 6. CONTENTS Illustrations viii Series Preface ix Acknowledgements x 1 The Primo de Rivera dictatorship and the fall of the monarchy 1 2 The Second Republic 18 3 The military rising 35 4 The Republic’s response 51 5 Intervention and non-intervention: idealism or expediency? 70 6 Politics on the Republican side and the role of the Soviet Union 91 7 Franco and fascism 110 Notes and sources 130 Select bibliography 138 Films 141 Index 143
  7. 7. ILLUSTRATIONS Map 1 Spain 66 Figure 1 ‘All youth united for the Fatherland’ 67 Figure 2 ‘KULTUR! Fascist barbarism in Madrid’ 68 Figure 3 ‘The claw of the Italian invader grasps to enslave us’ 69
  8. 8. SERIES PREFACE Most history textbooks now aim to provide the student with interpretation, and many also cover the historiography of a topic. Some include a selection of sources. So far, however, there have been few attempts to combine all the skills needed by the history student. Interpretation is usually found within an overall narrative framework and it is often difficult to separate the two for essay purposes. Where sources are included, there is rarely any guidance as to how to answer the questions on them. The Questions and Analysis series is therefore based on the belief that another approach should be added to those which already exist. It has two main aims. The first is to separate narrative from interpretation so that the latter is no longer diluted by the former. Most chapters start with a background narrative section containing essential information. This material is then used in a section focusing on analysis through a specific question. The main purpose of this is to help to tighten up essay technique. The second aim is to provide a comprehensive range of sources for each of the issues covered. The questions are of the type which appear on examination papers, and some have worked answers to demonstrate the techniques required. The chapters may be approached in different ways. The background narratives can be read first to provide an overall perspective, followed by the analyses and then the sources. The alternative method is to work through all the components of each chapter before going on to the next.
  9. 9. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author and publishers would like to thank the following for permission to reproduce material: Penguin Books Limited for extracts from Searchlight on Spain by the Duchess of Atholl (1938); Penguin, and the Peters Fraser and Dunlop Group Ltd for an extract from A Moment of War by Laurie Lee (1991); Faber and Faber Ltd for extracts from The Spanish Cockpit by Franz Borkenau (1937); Jonathan Cape Ltd for an extract from For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (English edition, 1941); Berg Publishers for Poem on the Antiquity of Spain by Agustín de Foxá, in The Spanish Civil War: A Cultural and Historical Reader, ed. Alun Kenwood (1993); the Left Book Club for Spain in Revolt by H. Gannes and T. Repard (1936) and Spanish Testament by A. Koestler (1937); Pimlico for Blood of Spain by R. Fraser (1979/94); Macmillan for The Spanish Civil War by P. Knight (1991); and the Victoria and Albert Museum Picture Library for Republican posters from the Spanish Civil War. The author would also like to thank Dr Tim Rees of the University of Exeter for permission to use extracts from his translations of Manuel Azaña on caciquismo (1923), the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the Constitution (1932) and the JAP Manifesto (1932); Mr. J.W.D. Trythall of the University of York for an extract from his translation of a speech by Manuel Azaña to the Republican Action Party (1931). While every effort has been made to trace and acknowledge ownership of copyright material used in this volume, the publishers will be glad to make suitable arrangements with any copyright holders whom it has not been possible to contact.
  10. 10. 1 THE PRIMO DE RIVERA DICTATORSHIP AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY BACKGROUND NARRATIVE Nineteenth-century Spain was torn apart by two civil wars between rival claimants to the throne. An unstable and short- lived republic (February 1873–December 1874) gave way to a constitutional monarchy under Alfonso XII. The 1876 Constitution introduced a bicameral parliament and by 1890 universal male suffrage was established. But, if a new age of political enlightenment seemed at first to be dawning, it was not to be an age of gold: in the ‘Disaster’ year of 1898, the economically valuable Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were all lost to the United States. Spain kept out of the First World War. Although neutrality brought economic prosperity, there also came inflation and internal conflict, including a general strike in 1917. In the same year, army officers, still blaming the politicians for the defeats of 1898, set up their own unions. On the far left, anarchism was growing fast. In the regions, there was serious unrest, notably Barcelona’s ‘Tragic Week’ (1909), the ‘Three Red Years’ (Trienio Bolchevique) in Andalucía (1918–20), and guerrilla warfare in Catalonia during 1919–23 when 700 people were murdered. Worker against capitalist, Catholic against atheist, anarcho- syndicalist against conservative, regionalist against centralist, landless labourer against landowner showed divisions deepening in Spain. There were also divisions within the divisions. Captains of industry resented the hold on political power of the reactionary landowners. Landless labourers, already brutally repressed by the paramilitary Civil Guard, PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 1
  11. 11. hated the conservative-minded smallholders, the Catholic favourites and potential allies of the landowners. ‘Regenerationists’, who looked to restore the greatness of Spain, deplored the corruption of local political bosses, known as caciques. Deepening this chasm of national anxiety came the news in 1921 of a gruesome military defeat in Morocco. The reputation of the army top brass was pilloried in the subsequent report on the affair, and the King’s role in the campaign was investigated by parliament. The Catholic Church felt threatened when the government seemed about to grant full public freedom of conscience in what church leaders saw as a gross act of state- sponsored atheism. Landowners felt undermined by government attempts at land reform. But, according to Paul Preston in his 1993 biography of Francisco Franco, the flashpoint for General Primo de Rivera’s coup d’état in 1923 came at Málaga. It was here, the embarkation point for Spanish Morocco, that a non-commissioned officer was murdered. When the suspect, a corporal, was pardoned by the King under political pressure, the officer corps felt doubly humiliated. The corrupt state had to be seized. Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship lasted seven years. Its politics reflected both reactionary and progressive attitudes, but eventually Rivera alienated as broad a political spectrum as had supported him in 1923. In January 1930 he withdrew from politics to exile in Paris, where he died. His successor, General Berenguer, headed a divided government. Although he restored political parties, as well as the four local administrations of Catalonia, parliament (the Cortes) was to be delayed until spring 1931. Berenguer’s rule was not a smooth ‘transition in reverse’ to the system before Rivera’s coup, but nor could it be a gradualist transition forward, given the level of support for more radical change, even a new dictatorship. The relatively free municipal elections of April 1931 were in effect a referendum on the monarchy, and they showed overwhelming support for the Republicans and Socialists. Alfonso XIII stepped down and the Second Republic was born. 2 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  12. 12. ANALYSIS (1): WHAT DID THE DICTATORSHIP OF PRIMO DE RIVERA ACHIEVE? When, in September 1923, as Captain-General of Barcelona, General Miguel Primo de Rivera issued a pronunciamiento overturning the Liberal government of García Prieto, he was seen by many as an almost messianic figure, leading a crusade against political corruption, social chaos and imperial humiliation. He was backed by the King, the army, the Church and a wide popular consensus. Yet, although his period of rule to January 1930 is called the Dictadura, his was not a dictatorship that followed rigid lines of policy. In Spanish Morocco, he moved from a policy of withdrawal to a strategy of war and consolidation. Initially he seemed keen to maintain an army promotions system based strictly on seniority, but he came to favour advancement through merit. He appeared to be sympathetic to the ambitions of moderate Catalan regionalism, but soon moved to a distinctly unsympathetic centralism. He planned for a constituent Cortes but then abandoned the idea. Although, as Hugh Thomas has noted, Rivera’s regime lacked the organized mass base and fanatical imperialism that might have labelled it fascist,1 the ‘Dictator’ nevertheless dismissed the pre-existing Cortes, suspended elections and trial by jury, presided over a highly regulated education system, censored the press and forced many people, including some conservatives, into exile. On the other hand, Rivera was also in many ways a humane figure, concerned to alleviate the grinding poverty in which much of Spain’s population lived. He posted military delegates to each region as ‘pocket iron surgeons’, to excise corruption. Sadly, their attempt to free the electorate from the hold of the caciques was no more than a qualified success. The same could be said of Rivera’s attempt to build a wide body of political support. Even after the end of the war in Morocco in 1926, when he felt able to ‘liberalize’ his regime, he never managed to persuade even the moderate Socialists to join his National Assembly. Rivera’s Unión Patriótica (UP), which he hoped would give his regime a façade of public zeal, was a failure. His dynamic economic programme was open to political sabotage and susceptible to fluctuations in the world economy. Although Rivera banned the anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the CNT, and secured the cooperation of the moderate Socialist trade union, the UGT, he was never able to ensure united and consistent left- wing support. Three years later, in 1927, banned anarchists secretly re- established themselves as the small underground attack group, the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI). PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 3
  13. 13. In Catalonia and the Basque Country Rivera at first pursued a genuinely open-minded policy, in the hope that granting a regional assembly to Catalonia would uphold the authority of his Catalan conservative allies in the Lliga (Catalan Regionalist League). It did not, and Rivera saw no alternative but to abolish the assembly, much to the delight of his centralist supporters. As a result, the political tide in Catalonia, further strengthened by Rivera’s banning of the Catalan flag, flowed instead towards the more radical anti-clerical Catalan separatism and republicanism as embodied in the Esquerra (Catalan Left Coalition). In the Basque Country, too, Rivera abandoned his original plans for a measure of regional autonomy under pressure from his military associates. However, he retained conservative Basque officials in their posts, while, as S. Payne has shown, the tariff on imported goods and state subsidies to local industry greatly assisted the economy of the Basque Country and, by extension, that of Spain.2 Rivera’s social policies show similar contrasts. The government’s policy on the publication of books in Catalan and Basque was tolerant. Basque culture flourished. The regime built 2,000 new schools and refurbished 2,000 others, and prioritized technical training. At the same time, Rivera disciplined university professors who criticized his government and, in a highly controversial move, delighted the Church by recognizing degrees awarded by Catholic universities. This infuriated the liberal intelligentsia. Less controversial were cheap housing for workers and higher maternity benefits for women. On the other hand, women were still barred from voting. Social and economic progress was essential to national regeneration, but Rivera was limited in his options and dependent both on a healthy international economy and on internal cooperation. A worthy scheme was stillborn in 1928 when the latifundistas (large landowners) resisted the introduction into the countryside of compulsory wages and conditions arbitration committees (comites paritarios) which were already operating successfully in urban areas. Similarly, José Calvo Sotelo, Rivera’s finance minister, was blocked in his attempts to use tax increases to pay for public works, and had to resort to heavy borrowing and an ‘extraordinary budget’ which led, in 1928, to the collapse of the peseta. Raymond Carr has criticized Rivera’s Council for National Economy for being too bureaucratic,3 but at the time it seemed a sensible means of pursuing autarky, as did high tariffs and state subsidies to industry. The policy of granting monopolies led to Spanish dependence on the USSR for oil. Nor was there any let-up in industrial unrest. In 1924 the Asturian Mineworkers’ Union called a general strike; it failed, and the employers 4 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  14. 14. imposed even longer working hours. However, there were several areas of success. Apart from the successful urban arbitration committees, bold, imaginative public works schemes led for a time to near-full employment: new roads were built and old ones tarmacked; an extended railway network included the first trans-Pyrenees rail link between Spain and France; and 60–80 million pesetas per annum were allocated to hydro-electric schemes. Two international exhibitions in 1929 promoted tourism and Spain’s image of national regeneration, celebrating Spanish achievement past and present: the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville and the Barcelona International Exhibition. The Catalan historian Albert Balcells has suggested that Rivera hoped, rather optimistically, that the Barcelona Exhibition would build a political bridge to regional sentiment in Catalonia.4 Gerald Brenan, in his pioneering work The Spanish Labyrinth, first published in 1943, pointed out that the upswing in the world economy assisted Spain’s own development.5 However, could Spain’s prosperity last without a sustained rise in agricultural exports? Whatever happened internationally, domestic political consequences arising from Spain’s economic performance were bound to follow. Historians have offered contrasting perspectives on this. Hugh Thomas, in his highly readable The Spanish Civil War, first published in 1961, juxtaposes people’s high expectations, thanks to a new consumer culture, with the arrival of the economic slump in the late 1920s.6 The resultant disillusionment was made even more painful given the Dictatorship’s earlier impressive record of a 300 per cent increase in production and commerce. And even had there been no economic slump, Primo de Rivera had still failed to capitalize on the ‘feel-good’ factor to wed the people to a more lasting and up-to-date replacement for the monarchy. Writing in the mid-1980s, an expert on the Rivera dictatorship, Shlomo Ben- Ami, drew attention to the political consequences of economic migration to towns and cities. This had been generated by the opportunities to work in public works schemes and expanding industry: in these more ‘open’ environments, relatively free of caciquismo, the migrant electorate became less deferential and more prone to support radical politics.7 The American historian Gabriel Jackson, writing in 1959, stressed the positive legacy of the public works programme: it was a base for further modernization during the Republic (1931– 6). Paul Preston, on the other hand, has drawn attention to the heavy burden bequeathed to the Republic by the Rivera dictatorship’s excessive spending.8 Clearly, then, the economic history of 1920s Spain cannot be seen in isolation. Rivera’s successes and failures need to be put into a wider historical and international perspective. His public works schemes built PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 5
  15. 15. on the progress of previous governments, and were in turn expanded and coordinated by the Republic. The arbitration committees were anticipated in post-1918 legislation and were successfully introduced into rural areas in 1931. On the negative side, the war against the Riff and Jabala rebels in Spanish Morocco was a severe drain on the economy and Spain’s military manpower. However, Rivera’s initial plan – withdrawal – was rejected scornfully by the army, so he went instead for the military option. With French help, the Spanish defeated the rebels and forced their leader, Abd-el-Krim, to surrender in 1926. Victory in Morocco was immensely popular at home, but it did not guarantee loyal or sustained support from the army. The policy of promotion through merit, which Rivera was determined to pursue, won him support from the officers in Spain’s elite Army of Africa (Africanistas), but earned him the bitter enmity of the ultra-traditionalist artillery corps, who went on strike in 1926 and were involved in a coup attempt in 1928. For a time they were even disbanded. Rivera also undermined his own chances of gaining support from the army by failing to address grievances over low wages and obsolete weapons. His inability to get the army as a whole firmly on side proved fatal. The captains-general responded unenthusiastically to his ‘back me or sack me’ telegram of January 1930, and the King was able to use this ‘unconstitutional’ manoeuvre as a pretext for forcing Rivera to resign. Even so, some key elements within the army, notably the Africanistas, were still loyal to Rivera and appalled at King Alfonso’s cynical ‘dropping of the pilot’. Perhaps ironically, Rivera’s very achievements in modernizing the country seemed to have made the monarchy an anachronism. But it was Rivera who fell first. ‘Spain, One and Great!’ had been the rallying cry of Rivera’s UP, but if his rule showed anything, it was that Spain could not unite around a slogan, however inspiring. Questions 1. Was Primo de Rivera a weak dictator? 2. What did Spain gain from Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship? ANALYSIS (2): WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY IN 1931? Four days after the municipal elections of April 1931, and two days after the provisional government inaugurated the Second Republic, King Alfonso 6 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  16. 16. XIII published his farewell message. This manifesto for the past and future raises several questions about his own role in politics, the position of the monarchy, and the wider nature of Spanish politics. For example, the results of the municipal elections did indeed, as Alfonso maintained, show public alienation from the monarchy, but this was not universal. The King had made mistakes, as he recognized, but was it ‘without malice’, as he claimed? People would, he continued, come to appreciate his consistent efforts to serve Spain to the best of his abilities. But to be a monarchist was not necessarily to be loyal to Alfonso as an individual: many monarchists were deeply disillusioned with him. The King’s prerogatives were, he said, historical and national rather than personal to himself: but he had become closely identified with political controversy. Standing in the way of the national will would risk civil war, he declared, but the experience of the Republic would show that this national will was in fact divided against itself. He was ‘King of all Spaniards’; but the Carlists (supporters of a rival branch of the royal dynasty) would hotly dispute that claim. Spain’s destiny must be decided by Spain; but the Civil War would highlight the role other powers would play in deciding Spain’s future. Alfonso declared he was suspending his royal powers while the nation decided his future: he hoped (in vain) to be recalled to the throne. The historical significance of Alfonso’s decision is twofold: it helps demonstrate the spread of republican and anti-monarchist sentiment in Spain by 1931, and it provides a basis for tracing the development of monarchist resistance to the Republic. Raymond Carr writes of Alfonso’s ‘moral isolation’ in 1931,9 yet the King’s moral authority had been shrinking for decades. He saw himself as a stabilizing factor in a very fluid political situation that featured competing cliques and changing alignments, in which he was sure to offend one faction or another. In the early 1920s he was accused of employing divide-and-rule tactics, which further damaged an already divided Conservative Party. As a ‘hands-on’ monarch, Alfonso was, as Carr points out, inevitably identified with unpopular government decisions, such as the sending of working- class Spaniards to shore up mining concerns in Morocco. The King’s image also suffered badly from the bloody defeat at Annual (1921). Perhaps not surprisingly, Spain’s long tradition of republicanism came to a head in the 1920s. The Annual affair produced a radical anti- monarchist alliance in 1926, and republicanism was fed further in 1928 by state recognition of Catholic university degrees. During demonstrations against the policy, the King’s statue at Madrid University was vandalized beyond repair. It is a sign of how unpopular the King had become by 1928 that the leader of an abortive revolt against him was a PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 7
  17. 17. leading conservative monarchist politician, Sánchez Guerra. Despite his failure, or perhaps because of it, Guerra became something of a national hero for his opposition to the King. Monarchists and republicans alike were demanding a decision-making Cortes. Guerra himself remarked, ‘I am not a republican, but I recognize that Spain has a right to be a republic.’ The Pact of San Sebastián (August 1930) has been described by the Spanish historian Juan Pablo Fusi as ‘the central event in the opposition to the monarchy of Alfonso XIII’.10 Under this pact, Spanish and Catalan republicans agreed to work together in exchange for a guarantee of Catalan autonomy; it further underlined the impossibility of the King’s task of convincing the political elite to operate on his terms. The pact was supported by figures as diverse as Azaña, a progressive Republican; Alcalá Zamora, a conservative Liberal converted to republicanism by his disillusionment with the King; Lerroux, a right-wing Radical; Maura, a Conservative; and de los Rios, a Socialist intellectual. It also enjoyed the support of army radicals. The King’s unpopularity helped boost military involvement in republicanism. In 1930 junior officers staged a revolt at Jaca in Aragón. Many of the military had a personal grudge against the King because he had not kept his promise to overturn Rivera’s policy on promotion through merit and the dictator’s harsh policy towards the artillery corps. However, the Jaca Revolt failed to spark off a wider uprising, and collapsed: its two leaders were shot for treason. But the political shockwaves from these peacetime executions dwarfed even the trial of Sánchez Guerra. The two young officers became martyrs to an ever more popular republican cause. Gerald Brenan observed that ‘No king or dictator could hope to hold Spain if the towns were against him.’11 Yet that was exactly Alfonso’s position in early 1931. Madrid and most provincial cities voted overwhelmingly Republican or Socialist, with a turnout twice the normal size, in the municipal elections. These damaging results presented Alfonso with something of a fait accompli. The Minister of War, General Berenguer (who had recently been Prime Minister), and General Sanjurjo, Commander of the Civil Guard, advised Alfonso that all was lost. By then, for most people in the upper and middle classes, a republic seemed preferable to Bolshevism: at least if Alfonso gave way to a presidency, Spain would not risk becoming the world’s second proletarian state. If the King played a central role in uniting his various opponents in opposition to himself, if not to the monarchy, he played a less central role in the development of monarchist opposition to the Republic. As 8 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  18. 18. his Farewell Message suggested, his initial reaction was realistic: to let the Republic be. But when the new government seized his property, exiled him for life and launched a ferocious attack on the Church and the very national order he had left office to defend, he became more amenable to the overtures of monarchist cliques. While the Church praised the monarchy as an institution, and Alfonso as King, other monarchist groups were mobilizing. They fell into two camps, the Alfonsists and the Carlists, each loyal to one of two rival lines within the Borbón dynasty. They all despised the ‘atheistic’ Republic; the Carlists also saw the chance to reassert themselves after their defeats at the hands of the Alfonsists during the nineteenth-century Carlist Wars. Some monarchists favoured a constitutionalist approach, wearing the Republic down from within. However, the higher-profile elements were more militant, pursuing a doctrine of ‘catastrophism’ – that is, violent and liberating convulsion which would bring the Republic crashing down and lead to the restoration of the monarchy. It is important to realize that Alfonsists and Carlists were rivals: indeed, Carlists saw Alfonsine rule as iniquitous. Yet to a significant extent they cooperated. Both were militant, and bitterly critical of such right-wing ‘moderates’ as José María Gil Robles; but when the occasion demanded they were prepared to work with these same moderates, notably at election time. The government’s ‘revolutionary’ reform policies made the monarchists increasingly sceptical of the constitutionalist approach, and in 1932 they formed the ‘catastrophist’ political parties, Comunión Tradicionalista for the Carlists (hence, ‘Traditionalists’) and Renovación Española for the Alfonsists. Both parties also operated as extra- parliamentary groups, hatching plots to destroy the Republic. The catastrophists relished their romantic struggle on the periphery of Spanish politics. Renovación Española plotted with military die-hards and sent delegates to lobby the Duce and the Pope. In the Carlist camp, paramilitary units (requetés) drilled for the coming conflict, supported by militant Catholic priests and, for historian Martin Blinkhorn, resembling Mussolini’s squadristi.12 Hugh Thomas has noted that although Alfonso requested that nothing stand in the path of democracy in April 1931, during the Civil War he was active politically while resident in Italy: he gave generous financial help to the Nationalists and used his influence with the Italian state. Thomas also points up the class differences between Alfonsists, among whom wealthy landowners and financiers were prominent, and Carlists, who comprised less affluent aristocrats, peasants, skilled craftsmen and shopkeepers disillusioned by the government’s economic agenda.13 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 9
  19. 19. Writing in the mid-1990s, George Esenwein and Adrian Shubert’s emphasis is rather on the way Alfonso XIII himself betrayed the constitutional monarchy by accepting Primo de Rivera’s coup and his Dictadura.14 Predictably, this boosted the Republican cause as shown by the conversion of Alcalá Zamora, later President of the Republic. Esenwein and Shubert also offer a different perspective from Thomas’s on the division between Alfonsism and Carlism: that the Alfonsine Renovación Española was not a mass party like the Carlist Comunión Tradicionalista but that it nevertheless wielded considerable economic influence and had close associates in the army. For Carr, however, it was the Carlists who were ‘the most serious and consistent plotters’, though he, too, stresses the strong connection between generals in the Civil War and Alfonsists.15 The consensus is that, at grassroots level, it was the Carlist requetés who played a crucial role on the Nationalist side, providing some of Franco’s most highly trained and fanatical soldiers. Indeed, the Carlists had come to regard Gil Robles’s ‘accidentalism’ as anathema, far too moderate for their apocalyptic tastes. Brenan also allows Alfonso the attempt to return to constitutional government in 1930 – without the risk of elections – but stresses that leading politicians would not cooperate. On the contrary, their anti- monarchist, pro-republican stance acquired its highest profile yet in the August 1930 Pact of San Sebastián.16 Carr’s rather different emphasis is on General Berenguer’s role in delaying the elections, which added fuel to the campaign against the King. And the one party that in 1930 was monarchist – the Unión Monárquica Nacional – was at odds with Alfonso over his dismissal of General Primo. In the end, the monarchists’ uncompromisingly independent stance could not be sustained. In any case, the Civil War’s most celebrated Nationalist leader, Francisco Franco, did not like the idea of working with independent-minded paramilitary groups, whether monarchist or fascist. He therefore subsumed them all in a ‘super-movement’, the Spanish Traditionalist Phalanx of the Groups of the National Syndicalist Offensive (FET y de las JONS), where they could be more easily controlled. Alfonso XIII did net formally abdicate until 1941, and for loyal Alfonsists he remained a symbol of hope; Franco, on the other hand, had no intention of undermining his own supremacy by restoring the King. It would be forty-four years after Alfonso’s departure before the monarchy would be restored in the person of his grandson, King Juan Carlos. No Carlist pretender has challenged him. Yet. 10 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  20. 20. Questions 1. How did the monarchy contribute to the growth of republicanism during the period 1921–31? 2. How important was monarchism in the Second Republic and the Civil War? SOURCES 1. THE PRIMO DE RIVERA DICTATORSHIP IN CONTEXT Source A: Manuel Azaña on the power of the cacique, 1923. The oligarchy, as a system, and caciquismo as an instrument – the exclusion of the will of the rest – derive from before the constitutional regime and the suffrage and have persisted with them . . . The cacique scandalizes us because the public conscience is more sensitive than fifty years ago . . . The blackest side of the activities of the cacique is the everyday sordid oppression, that rarely gets reported in the press or in parliament; an oppression that bears fruit in votes, because it demands them . . . The kingdom of the cacique rests fundamentally on two bases: economic and professional. The ownership of the land; a little – or a lot – of disposable income, and the offer of some necessary services, such as medical help, are the strongest means of hitching the people to his wagon . . . That which the loanshark or the doctor does not take for himself is fruit left to the priest, because (heavens above!) here also the true evangelicals are few and far between . . . The serious combat against the cacique is sustained by the organizations of landworkers and small peasants . . . [These] germs of peasant democracy are destroying the political bands and unmasking the allies of the cacique. Source B: a Left Book Club viewpoint, 1936. In the summer of 1922, the report of the committee, headed by General Picasso, was presented. Promptly the Council of Ministers suppressed it . . . Among the punishments recommended for the culpable was death for the high commanding generals in Morocco and several of the ministers in Madrid . . . A storm of protest burst over the news that the Picasso report was to be shelved. The King dissolved Parliament. New elections left conditions unchanged. The way was open for a dictator to step in . . . With an iron hand [Primo de Rivera] put an end to the movement which threatened to implicate the King himself. The nobility, the large landowners, the Church dignitaries, the monarchist pensioned mayors, the responsible militarists, all breathed a sigh of relief at the advent of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship. PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 11
  21. 21. Source C: Franz Borkenau, an Austrian sociologist, on the achievements and problems of the dictatorship. What elements of modern European life there are to-day [1937] in Spain mostly date from the time of Primo; the republicans are loath to acknowledge it. But wherever there is a splendid road (and there are many), a modern inn in a small town, a new breakwater at some important port, a modern barrack or a modern prison, in nine out of ten cases it will have been constructed under Primo’s administration. The dictatorship was able to secure the foreign loans needed for this work of construction. And at first it had the enthusiastic support of the industrial bourgeoisie . . . Neither was the dictator unaware of the need for giving the urban proletariat something more than prisons and cartridges in order to make it cooperate. For the first time in Spanish history a constructive effort was made to solve the ‘social problem’. Compulsory collective bargaining was introduced, in order to secure acceptable wages for workers . . . Altogether it was the greatest attempt ever made to transform Spain into a modern country . . . But . . . from the first to the last moment [Primo] was in power, he was passively tolerated . . . Moreover, Primo’s regime was not only up against the profound Spanish apathy that confronts constructive effort; it contained within itself elements absolutely incompatible with the winning of mass support. A progressive dictatorship such as his must rely, in the first place, on the bourgeoisie and the progressive intelligentsia. But Primo had to foregather with their two natural enemies, the army and the Church. Source D: a Right Book Club viewpoint, published in 1938. Once he is stirred, the Spaniard is a crusader, but he does not readily understand a crusade against an enemy so amorphous as apathy. Though Primo de Rivera failed to get the Spaniard to appreciate collective civil responsibilities, so that it became increasingly difficult to lay aside his powers . . . his dictatorship did much good work in other directions . . . One of its great works was an attempt to assist labour towards a wise development, and Primo de Rivera instituted what were known as Comites Paritarios, composed of representatives of employers and employees . . . Largo Caballero, later seduced to the cause of the extremists, did great work in those years . . . It is amusing to read in reputedly well-informed British periodicals that the Republic and its politicians had bestowed the inestimable boon of electric light upon the poor country villagers. The writers probably believe this, and are unaware that the credit for the initiative in most of the great hydro-electric schemes was due to the Dictatorship, whose schemes would have absorbed something like the total estimated national wealth . . . The Ministers of the Dictatorship 12 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  22. 22. were over-optimistic in their finance. That, perhaps, was the most important reason for the fall of the Dictator; for the over-expenditure resulted in conditions which gave the agitators their opportunity to pull down first the Dictatorship itself, and secondly the Monarchy . . . It was a strange, patriarchal sort of Dictatorship, one of the most moderate, when one considers the difficulties of governing this fierce nation. Source E: an evaluation of the dictatorship by historian and MP Katharine Atholl, 1938. For forty or fifty years Spain has had her Socialist and trade-union movements, by no means confined to the towns. A peasant rising, however, as recently as 1919 had been fruitless, and since Primo de Rivera’s seizure of power in 1923, though some useful constructive work had been achieved, no agrarian reform had been possible. Moreover, there had been no freedom to ventilate grievances in speech or press, no free elections, and no Cortes with any powers to legislate; while the desire of Catalonia for autonomy had been sternly refused. Some universities had been suppressed; professors and teachers were miserably paid . . . and religious tests had been imposed on State officials. The dictatorship, in fact, by overriding the Constitution, had read the nation a lesson in anarchy. Questions *1. Explain the references to: (a) ‘the republicans are loath to acknowledge it’ (Source C) (2); (b) ‘a lesson in anarchy’ (Source E). (2) 2. How revealing is Source B as to the nature of Spanish government in the early 1920s? (3) 3. What can be inferred from Sources A and E as to political and economic relationships in rural Spain in the 1920s? (4) 4. Assess the relative value to historians of the evidence provided by Sources C and D. (6) 5. Using these sources and your own knowledge, comment on the description of Primo de Rivera’s rule as ‘one of the most moderate’ types of dictatorship. (8) Worked answer *4. [Apart from considering the accuracy or otherwise of these sources, also give thought to language and tone and other senses in which the sources may or may not be ‘reliable’.] What Borkenau says in Source C about the lack of active support for the Rivera regime can to some extent be corroborated: the Unión PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 13
  23. 23. Patriótica did not become the affirmative mass-movement he had hoped for, and the Socialist Party would not join the National Assembly. However, the Socialist Largo Caballero joined Rivera’s Council of State, even though he later distanced himself from the regime. As Borkenau suggests, it is true that Rivera found it difficult to unite right and left behind him. On the other hand, Rivera was not the first to attempt to solve the ‘social problem’. Earlier governments had both initiated public works schemes, which after all have a social and political as well as an economic function, and made efforts to arbitrate in labour disputes. Both Borkenau and the authors of Source D make generalized assertions about Spanish ‘apathy’ in the face of ‘constructive effort’. Contrary to the authors’ claims, many thousands willingly sought work in the public works schemes. The Africanista infantry also had cause to appreciate Rivera and were shocked when he was dismissed. Borkenau’s language and tone are relatively detached, though his repetition of the word ‘modern’ suggests admiration. Despite the provenance of Source D, its assessment is not entirely one-sided. It is true that politics intrude more clearly (‘a wise development . . . seduced to the cause of the extremists . . . gave the agitators their opportunity’). They are also not averse to stereotypes: witness their references to ‘the Spaniard’ and ‘this fierce nation’. They are somewhat patronizing, for example towards sections of the British press, though that of itself does not make their specific point of criticism wrong. Although themselves right wing, they acknowledge Largo Caballero’s ‘constructive effort’ in the field of labour relations, while criticizing the financial policy of the dictatorship. Both sources give useful near-contemporary insights into the achievements and problems of Rivera’s rule. Neither can be dismissed as mere propaganda. As always, it depends to some extent on what the historian is looking for; and what his or her source is ‘valuable for’. For unleavened propaganda one would look further afield. Nevertheless, Right Book Club analyses provide a counterweight to analyses such as Sources B and C. SOURCES 2. THE MONARCHY AND THE BIRTH OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC Source F: Left Book Club authors on the events of 1930. On August 17, 1930 republican leaders met at Hotel de Londres, San Sebastian. Headed by the extreme Right republican leaders, such as Niceto Alcala Zamora, later President of the 1931 Republic; Alejandro Lerroux, later associated with the 14 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  24. 24. fascist leader Jose Maria Gil Robles, Miguel Maura, and others, a pact was drawn up compromising whatever differences there were to attain the common object of the establishment of a republic. They counted on nation-wide general strikes and support of the bulk of the army. Captain Fermin Galan, a heroic republican figure, author of an idealistic book for the regeneration of Spain, The New Creation, on December 12, 1930 led what was known as the Jaca Revolt. The fact that Captain Galan commenced the revolt prematurely shows the mistrust of the republican officers towards the republican civil leaders, who constantly postponed the hour of revolution. Captain Galan and his associates hoped to confront the republican leaders with a fait accompli and thus compel them to act further. The revolt was a miserable failure. Together with Captain Angel Garcia Hernandez, Captain Galan was court-martialled and sentenced to death. At the trial he was asked: ‘Did you have accomplices?’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply. ‘Who are they?’ ‘Yourselves, cowards!’ shouted the condemned captain. Source G: a pro-monarchy perspective. The outstanding feature of the tragedy of the fall of the Monarchy was the statesmanship of Alfonso XIII. It would be hard to find a more patriotic and disinterested gesture than he made on the eve of his departure, when he issued his public proclamation . . . ‘I prefer to stand resolutely aside rather than provoke a conflict which might array my fellow countrymen against one another in civil and patricidal strife . . . ‘I shall await the true and full expression of the collective conscience and . . . I deliberately suspend my exercise of the Royal power and am leaving Spain, thus acknowledging that she is the sole mistress of her destinies. Also I now believe that I am fulfilling the duty which the love of my country dictates. I pray God that all other Spaniards may feel and fulfil their duty as sincerely as I do.’ Source H: Franz Borkenau on the April 1 1 municipal elections. 93 The polls demonstrated . . . facts of primary importance for the future. The revolutionary movement had hardly yet reached the countryside; the peasant was untouched; which meant, after all, that it had no deep roots in Spain as a whole. The countryside still obeyed the caziques [sic] and the aristocrats and voted monarchist. But . . . with two or three exceptions, all the provincial capitals voted for the united list forwarded by the coalitions of those parties that had signed the pact of San Sebastian. The monarchy had been optimistic; the result came as a PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 15
  25. 25. terrible shock. The results in Barcelona were decisive. There everybody had expected the success of the Lliga; the Esquerra came in with an overwhelming majority. A few hours later Maciá proclaimed the independent Catalan republic. The only possible help lay in the military. But the generals saw no reason to defend Alphonso, whom they had learned to hate . . . [The King] issued a pathetic proclamation that he resigned in order to spare the country civil war. Source I: Minister of War Manuel Azaña speaking in July 1931. A year ago today the forces that prepared and brought about the revolution had still not come to agreement. Three months ago the limping monarchy was still trying to aim its weapons against us. And three days ago, after the Spanish people had said let there be a republic and the Republic had been born [in April 1931], three days ago we went to the Constituent Cortes and told them: ‘Here are the powers that the republican people delegated to us’ . . . Some might wish to rub out the memory of December like a bad dream . . . But it does not embarrass me at all, as a member of the government, in a difficult and sensitive post, it does not embarrass me at all to invoke the memory of the December revolution which was the starting point for the victorious vote of April. (‘Hear, hear.’ Loud applause.) The vote of April did no more than corroborate and sanction within the legality of the polls the effort and the propaganda of the martyrs for freedom of December, morally victorious if apparently defeated . . . And I say here, friends and co-religionists, from my sensitive position of power that this memory does not embarrass me at all, because I have always and still do maintain that against tyranny everything is permissible and no law is binding. Just as I maintain that against the revolution that has now become the Republic by sanction of popular elections nothing is permissible that steps outside legal channels. (Long and loud applause.) Questions *1. Explain the references to: (a) ‘and others’ (Source F); (b) ‘in a difficult and sensitive post’ (Source I). (2) 2. What grounds might the monarchy have had for being ‘optimistic’ (Source H)? (3) 3. Contrast the perspectives offered on the Jaca Revolt by Sources F and I. (4) 4. What are the underlying purposes of the July 1931 speech delivered by Azaña to the Republican Action Party? (6) 16 PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY
  26. 26. 5. Critically examining these sources and using your own knowledge, discuss the circumstances which led to the transition from monarchy to republic. (8) Worked answer *1. [Two marks for each part means that you must also offer some analytical comment.] (a) There are names omitted here: for example, Azaña, the Left Republican leader; de los Rios, the Socialist; and Mallol, the Catalan nationalist. The reason might be that Gannes and Repard, Marxists writing in 1936, were keen not to associate the political left overtly with the origins of the problem-plagued Second Republic. Hence the anonymous ‘and others’. (b) Azaña was Minister of War in the first government of the Second Republic. However, he was a Left Republican, critical of much of the Spanish army’s record and its organization. As Minister of War he would be expected to work for the improvement of the armed forces, but his definition of the national interest would bring him up against army traditionalists. PRIMO DE RIVERA AND THE FALL OF THE MONARCHY 17
  27. 27. 2 THE SECOND REPUBLIC BACKGROUND NARRATIVE Spain’s Second Republic was born, and survived, in discouraging international circumstances: the Great Depression corroding Europe’s economies and societies; Hitler extinguishing Weimar pluralism and challenging the European status quo; a brutal ‘revolution from above’ in the USSR; and, in Mussolini’s Italy, a corporate state which bound together workers and managers, ostensibly for the national good. To many in Spain, such developments were healthy, a precedent to be followed. The results of municipal elections on 12 April 1931 showed that Rivera’s successors had failed to reconcile the populace to the monarchist regime. The King left Spain, and a provisional government took power. The politics of the Second Republic functioned – or sought to function – within a dysfunctionally broad spectrum of attitudes and agendas. From anticlerical Socialist Party to dogmatically clerical CEDA; from Catalan separatism to the mystical centralism of the Falange; from Alfonsine monarchists to Marxist POUM; and from conservative army officers committed to restoring the old state to anarchists frustrated by the new. The Republic’s political relations are explained partly by the results of the three general elections that took place during its lifetime. The first, in June 1931, elected a Cortes which drew up a controversial constitution and continued the reforms begun in April. The November 1933 election ushered in governments who did all they could to turn the clock back. The third election (February 1936) brought to power a government that, though lacking Socialist ministers, set out to reverse the work of its right-wing predecessors. 18 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  28. 28. The ‘reformist years’ of 1931–3 seemed a malevolent eternity to the opposition right. The governments of Alcalá Zamora and his successor Azaña launched a bold programme of legislation. Thus, the Catholic Church (only 20 per cent of Spaniards were practising Catholics) was disestablished under Article 26 and its state subsidy was to end in 1933. Freedom of belief and religious practice was guaranteed provided it did not offend public morals and although the Jesuits were to be dissolved, other religious orders could continue if they did not endanger the state. However, these orders were barred from undertaking economic activity or teaching, and Church schools were to close within a specific time limit. Thus, the traditional status of the Catholic Church was to end. Clerical conservative Spain was appalled, and the government itself was fractured: in October 1931 Prime Minister Alcalá Zamora and Minister of the Interior Maura – both conservative Catholics – resigned. Controversy also stalked land legislation. By mid-1931 the Law of Municipal Boundaries protected rural workers against cheap imported labour; arbitration committees on wages and conditions and protection for tenants against arbitrary eviction were established. Predictably, irate landowners and their political allies saw this as a declaration of war, as they did the Law of Agricultural Reform which expropriated, without full compensation, the largest landowners’ estates. The 1931–3 governments also introduced army reforms, limited autonomy for Catalonia, universal suffrage at twenty- three, freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, legal divorce and the abolition of the death penalty. Other innovations included old-age pensions. Progress in hydro-electric power continued from the Primo de Rivera dictatorship. Barcelona University gained autonomy; a People’s University was founded in Madrid where adults were taught by postgraduates. Official statistics from the Ministry of Information claimed that by the end of 1932 10,000 new primary schools had been built. Cultural ‘missionaries’ took theatre, cinema and fine art to the rural populace. But were these life-enhancing changes or, as conservatives saw them, a threat to corrupt morals? Of these reforms, which would be targeted by the right- wing governments in power from November 1933 to February 1936? In the process of reversing earlier legislation, CEDA THE SECOND REPUBLIC 19
  29. 29. deputies in the Cortes under Gil Robles wielded powerful influence. Thus, the Jesuits could teach again, while state education spending was slashed. There were nearly 19,000 peasant evictions in Estremadura alone, and rural unemployment rose as labourers lost their job security. Trade unions faced assaults from the Ministry of the Interior, whereas amnesties were granted to anyone involved in the August 1932 coup attempt led by General Sanjurjo. Beyond parliament and law-making, how did left and right behave towards each other? They provided fuel for the Republic’s opponents: in May 1931 convents and churches were burned and catacombs desecrated. At Castilblanco near Badajoz (Estremadura) the corpses of civil guardsmen were brutally mutilated. In 1934 the anarchist leader Durruti called a general strike in Zaragoza and a nation-wide strike of labourers was organized by the Socialist land-workers’ union, the FNTT.1 For two weeks that October, Socialist miners took over parts of Asturias, including the capital Oviedo. As things deteriorated in 1936, Madrid was plagued by strikes. On the political right, the most famous assault on the state before the military revolt of July 1936 was the abortive putsch by General Sanjurjo and his followers in August 1932. A reaction against the Catalan Autonomy Bill and Agrarian Reform Bill, the ‘Sanjurjada’ failed in its primary goal of seizing power. However, the army learned much from this debacle. Meanwhile, in rural districts landlords resorted to subversion on a grand scale – refusing to allow cultivation and thus putting labourers out of work, and taking advantage of loosely drafted legislation. In turn, many reformers – notably Largo Caballero as Minister of Labour, 1931–3 – lost faith in the power of democracy to enact change effectively. Versions of democracy survived, nevertheless, through eight years of peace and war. And, during the peacetime Republic, the artist Miró, poet and playwright Lorca and film director Buñuel led a flourishing world of culture. Women gained new prominence in journalism, trade union leadership and politics; the suffragist Victoria Kent became the Republic’s first Director-General of Prisons.2 And in parts of Spain there was a fundamental left-wing social, economic and political revolution – though it took civil war both to achieve it and to destroy it. 20 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  30. 30. ANALYSIS (1): WHY, DESPITE ITS ACHIEVEMENTS, DID THE SECOND REPUBLIC PROVE SO UNSTABLE? Between its birth in April 1931 and March 1939 when its last Prime Minister, Juan Negrín, fell from power, the Second Republic experienced fifteen changes of government. This in itself, however, says nothing specific of individual government tenure, one criterion for ‘stability’. Azaña’s first stint as Prime Minister, from October 1931, lasted nearly two years; at the other extreme, in July 1936 the government of Martínez Barrio survived for barely twelve hours. Of the eleven peacetime governments, eight lasted for six months or less. Add to this the political, social and economic ‘wars’ already being waged by interest groups all over Spain against these governments (let alone each other) by strikes, propaganda, obstruction and insurrection, and it may seem remarkable not only that anything significant was achieved but that civil war was delayed for so long. At times, Spain seemed locked into a vortex of instability. The nature of the Republic’s achievements was bound to inflame or frustrate: is it therefore more apt to say that it was because of these achievements, rather than despite them, that the Republic was so unstable? Tension between Barcelona and Madrid after the Catalan Autonomy Bill (1932) was due partly to the fact that the Catalan signatories of the 1930 Pact of San Sebastián saw the Bill as too diluted. Historians such as Albert Balcells and Norman Jones have noted the dramatic shift from ‘tension’ to ‘crisis’ in the autumn of 1934: inhaling the pure oxygen of Spain’s ‘October Revolution’, Lluis Companys, head of the Catalan Republican Left Party and of the Barcelona regional government, now proclaimed a ‘Catalan State within a Spanish Federal Republic’. For this initiative he was sentenced to thirty years in prison; the central authorities suspended the Catalan government (Generalitat), along with the autonomy law itself.3 In a democratic environment, what does political stability require? More than an origin based on consensus, which in April 1931 the Republic seemed superficially to have, it needs even-handedness and political subtlety. But these, unlike anxiety and disillusionment, were in short supply. For every newspaper banned, there was an inflammatory speech in the Cortes or at a party rally; for every politician imprisoned, an intimidating parade or debilitating strike. In turn, state attempts to restore equilibrium by force were often counter-productive. Indeed, the theme of provocation is woven throughout the Second Republic. There was readiness to provoke and to be provoked. When, in October 1934, ministers from the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rightist THE SECOND REPUBLIC 21
  31. 31. Groups (CEDA) joined Lerroux’s government, ‘the Socialists [took] the bait and launched a hopeless assault on the state’,4 the most dramatic example being the Asturias Rising and subsequent commune which held out for two weeks before being crushed. If a measure of instability is evident in all political systems, what made the Spanish example so extreme? Analysis of the period 1931–6 alone cannot provide the whole answer. After all, the 1931–3 governments’ raison d’être was to challenge the pre-1931 order through legislation; the preoccupation of the right-wing governments of November 1933– February 1936 was to restore tradition and conserve it. Moreover, Frances Lannon’s close analysis of the experience of the Catholic Church has shown that it already felt deeply insecure before the annus horribilis of 1931 : would the demonic Republic now deal the final blow?5 Similarly, landowners had long faced agitation from landless labourers: now, there was an additional scapegoat in the ‘destructive Republic’. The self-interest and self-image of groups and institutions were not only hurt by single-issue reforms aimed by the state directly at them. For example, the army was also antagonistic towards Catalan autonomy because it would destroy the unity of the Patria. Similarly, the Church was deeply anxious about land reform and the new politics: CEDA, the Church’s political wing, described the ‘atheistic’ Republic as a communist class dictatorship hostile to the family, private property and the free market. When centrifugal forces were at work concurrently, then chronic instability would follow. In 1933–4 both CEDA on the right and disillusioned Socialists on the left, led by Largo Caballero, were becoming more anti-constitutional in outlook. For the left this process had already begun in 1931, when its more radical elements felt that their idealized ‘new Spain’ was being sold out to compromise. The right countered with accusations that the old Spain was being subverted by revolutionary reform. Indeed, much venom was spat at the governments of the Second Republic: that they were more like pressure groups than governments, that their leaders were agitators not statesmen, that their law- enforcement was lawless and that they were led by their followers. And however decisively governments introduced reform, or reneged on it or repealed it, outcry was certain: from those who sought more change (Socialist, Communist or anarchist) and those who wanted no progressive legislation at all – army, Church and landowners, great and small. Paul Preston’s detailed research into the contemporary press has shown how newspapers and periodicals played a significant part in entrenching these positions. The press sustained an intoxicating aura of 22 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  32. 32. confrontation, while contributing to the making of revolution and reaction more directly. For example, left-wing papers conducted influential campaigns. One of these led in March 1934 to the forging of an Asturian Workers’ Alliance which went on to organize the Asturias Rising. On the right, in a contagious spirit of ‘catastrophism’, the pro-CEDA Catholic daily El Debate intoned in January 1936, ‘Between the ruin and the salvation of Spain there is no middle way.’6 Newspapers were joined in the vanguard of protest by Spanish youth, who themselves had their own political press. Prominent in the Asturias Rising of October 1934 was the Socialist Youth Movement (FJS). On the extreme right, young Falangists led death-raids against the left – notably the murder of an Assault Guards officer in July 1936, in reprisal for which the right’s new hero, José Calvo Sotelo, was assassinated. A dense matrix of instability characterized the Second Spanish Republic, the political momentum veering towards the extremes – within governments such as those of Lerroux; within parties, for example, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE); and within movements, notably the anarchist National Confederation of Labour (CNT). High-profile operators like Largo Caballero and Gil Robles lost faith in the legal path, a route already despised by Alfonsist and Carlist monarchists and the Falange Española, the millennarian fascist movement of the new right. To conclude: in the period 1931–6, legislation (and the dread of it) reacted with privilege and deprivation, exacerbating pre-existing tensions and leading ultimately to civil war. Speaking metaphorically, the Republic in 1931 had defined itself as an engine of change but it ignored a series of red lights and was derailed. Governments seemed at times less interested in building political bridges than in blowing them up. From late July 1936, the politics of the feud became the tactics and strategies of armies, and a plethora of conflicts now reduced themselves to a definitive formula: the open society versus its enemies. Analysis (2) seeks to consider why hopes of coexistence between Spanish people were dashed. However, as this first analysis has tried to argue, in the crisis atmosphere of the Republic hopes of coexistence were always fragile, and more or less unacceptable: to policy-makers and opinion-formers, to die-hard property-owners and to those they regarded as put on earth to serve them. Questions 1. How significant was regional identity during the period 1931–6? 2. The events of October 1934 were of decisive importance in the history of the Second Republic.’ Discuss. THE SECOND REPUBLIC 23
  33. 33. ANAL YSIS (2): WHY WERE HOPES OF COEXISTENCE BETWEEN THE SPANISH PEOPLE DASHED AFTER FEBRUARY 1 936? This analysis will focus on the fourteen months from May 1935 to July 1936. In order to place the February 1936 elections in perspective, some reference to the upheavals of October 1934 will be made. As will be seen, within a broad definition of ‘coexistence’, difficulties were to be experienced at all levels. Though there were always constraints and opportunities that prevented total fragmentation, this is not how it appeared to many at the time. Already in October 1934 three CEDA ministers had been appointed to government, sparking working-class and regionalist revolts. Then, in May 1935, Prime Minister Lerroux reshuffled his cabinet, adding two more CEDA ministers: the CEDA leader Gil Robles became Minister of War. Together, this dissonant quintet would ensure the failure of coexistence in Spain. To call them ‘Lerroux’s ministers’ rather misses the point. At the War Ministry, Gil Robles – pausing on his own resolute ascent to the summit – appointed a triad of generals to key posts, although Franco (Chief of General Staff) was more prepared at this stage to coexist with the Republic than were Fanjul (Under-Secretary of War) and Goded (Inspector-General and Director of the Air Force). Gil Robles himself expected to succeed Prime Minister Lerroux’s own successor Chapaprieta, who resigned over a budget crisis at the end of 1935. But the CEDA leader miscalculated: his glowing references to the death of parliamentary democracy, along with the yells of his youth wing (JAP) for ‘All power to the chief!’, merely alienated President Alcalá Zamora, who did not appoint him. Yet Gil Robles still had the power to sustain heavy CEDA pressure in parliament, and in the February 1936 election campaign he exhorted JAP to spread propaganda against the Republic. Much to Gil Robles’s fury, however, the right lost the February 1936 elections to the ‘odious’ Popular Front: a bitterly controversial result whose statistics have been analysed in depth by the Spanish historian Xavier Tusell Gómez. Following the Popular Front victory, more radical right-wingers, notably José Cairo Sotelo, began to dig a deeper furrow in Spanish politics.7 Would Gil Robles now ‘coexist’ with such elements on the far right, or would he actively encourage his followers to join them? The view that the ‘legal’ path had failed was spreading, and Gil Robles could not obstruct the accelerating climb of far-right anti- parliamentary groups. Nevertheless, as Paul Preston has written, ‘he played an active, and indeed crucial, role, in parliament and the press, in creating the atmosphere which made a military rising appear to the 24 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  34. 34. middle classes as the only alternative to catastrophe’.8 Gil Robles used parliament for propaganda, but meaningful coexistence with the state was as unacceptable to him as it was to the militant Socialist Largo Caballero. In jail after the October 1934 risings, and following his release at the end of 1935, Largo Caballero mused on Marx and revolution. But until the defeat of the right in the February 1936 elections he was prepared to coexist with Prieto, his reformist rival in the PSOE. Prieto’s ambition to mobilize a broad front behind the Republic with a moderate reform agenda (what became the January 1936 Popular Front programme) won wide public support, reflected in the Popular Front victory. However, Largo Caballero was committed to his own root-and-branch plan to radicalize the PSOE with Communist Party support and now ended his tactical alliance with Prieto: he vetoed the idea of power-sharing by the PSOE, and his newspaper Claridad showed that his tolerance of the government was heavily qualified: We will not renounce our own right to criticize in order to maintain the vigilance of the working class, which is now marching forward to the final goal of our class, and, at the slightest sign of weakening, to set the working class against its present allies.9 Meanwhile, in the rural districts, people were coexisting less with each other than with trauma, confrontation and murder. Left provoked right, and vice versa. Churches and right-wing HQs in Córdoba province suffered incendiary attacks by the CNT. Forcing thousands out of work, landlords flooded arable land and faced the wrath of the FNTT. In the years of reaction (November 1933–February 1936), governments and landlords had driven through progress in reverse. Now the new Popular Front government was set on moving politics and society forward once more – but, just as surely, enraged their opponents when they reinstated forward-looking laws. The role of the press, discussed in Analysis (1), underlines the limitations of coexistence within right-wing politics. El Debate lionized the Falange’s mauling of the left, but the Falange scorned this praise, and frequently disrupted CEDA meetings. These were times of shifting loyalties and identities, with agents provocateurs adding to the confusion. As Gerald Brenan explained in The Spanish Labyrinth the limits of coexistence were also evident at the level of ‘high’ politics. For example, President Alcalá Zamora was in the firing line from his prime minister, Azaña, who was bitterly resentful at Zamora’s ‘meddling’ and his wish to dissolve the Cortes. But, if President Zamora and Prime Minister Azaña could not coexist, who would take the President’s place were he THE SECOND REPUBLIC 25
  35. 35. to be impeached for this ‘interference’? Ironically, it would be Azaña who now found himself head of state – on 10 May 1936, the fifth anniversary of the first church-burnings.10 Who would become Prime Minister now that Azaña was President? The Left Republican whom Azaña chose, Casares Quiroga, seemed grudging in his attacks on left- wing violence. Neither Azaña nor Casares and his colleagues had the power to reconcile, inspire and unite. Increasingly, coexistence seemed confined to Casares’s cabinet. During the period May–July 1936, industrial relations hit rock bottom. Shipping, the hotel industry, and tram, railway and building companies all found themselves under economic siege. Employers undermined the arbitration committees and rejected the shorter working week reintroduced after the Popular Front election victory. Among workers’ organizations, the anarchist CNT was ‘coexisting’ with neither the Socialist UGT (General Union of Workers) nor the Communist Party. And even if for the Communists and Largo Caballero’s left wing of the Socialist Party revolution was a longer-term goal, their propaganda, along with the economic civil war, was enough, in the words of Paul Preston, ‘to verify the exaggerated picture of unmitigated chaos being painted by Calvo Sotelo and Gil Robles’.11 Moreover, although Prieto was gaining support within sections of the Socialist Party for his more centrist brand of politics, his meetings were attacked by the militant Socialist–Communist youth movement, the JSU – between its assaults on anarchists and Falangists. On this jagged edge of civilian politics coexistence was, for many, a forgotten cause. There were exceptions to this rule. Catalonia, with its semi-autonomy restored, appeared relatively quiescent in the otherwise ‘ominous’12 spring of 1936. However, relentless headlines of bloody confrontation continued to sap national morale. For many months, with the political stakes so high, there had been no significant centre in Spanish politics. Disingenuously, Gil Robles blamed Spain’s agony on the left. But whatever the hierarchy of causes for the impending national earthquake, it is not surprising that the army, or some of it, defender of eternal Spain’s integrity, finally rose up. Those who sought to defend the new Spain, despite or because of the chaos of July 1936, resisted; in the final analysis, military could not coexist with military, either. Questions 1. Why was the Second Republic not more successful? 2. What was the significance of Gil Robles and Largo Caballero in Spanish politics, 1931–6? 26 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  36. 36. SOURCES 1. THE SOCIALISTS AND THE POPULAR FRONT Source A: a Communist perspective from the Left Book Club, 1936. Meanwhile the Madrid organisation of the Socialist Party, headed by Largo Caballero, had passed a resolution, to be introduced at the next Socialist national congress, urging organic unity with the Com- munist Party, and a serious split threatened within the Socialist leadership. Indalecio Prieto, the right-wing Socialist leader, manoeuvred to oust Largo Caballero, who undoubtedly had the support of the majority of Socialists, as the events of the Civil War proved later. This alarming danger of a Socialist split, the tense situation created later on by fascist provocations in the great wave of strikes, and the clash between the anarcho-syndicalists and the united UGT were grist to the fascist mill. Mundo Obrero, Communist official organ, worried over efforts of the fascists, Trotskyists, and some anarcho-syndicalists to rupture the People’s Front, warned that under no circumstances must the united action of Left Republicans and the proletarian parties be broken. Source B: from the reform manifesto of the left PSOE, led by Largo Caballero, March 1936. We must put an end to the illusion that the proletarian socialist revolution can be brought about through the reform of present social conditions, i.e., that the transformation of private and corporate ownership of the means of production into common ownership by the whole society will result in the abolition of all classes and their fusion into a single community of workers. There is no other alternative but to destroy and rebuild society from its foundations . . . Step by step, the dictatorship of the proletariat . . . will become a fully developed, classless democracy, in which State coercion gradually will disappear. The Socialist party will be the organ of such a dictatorship and will remain so for as long as the transition from one society to another may last, and for as long as the threats from the surrounding capitalist States may warrant the existence of a strong proletarian State . . . In order to accomplish this, it is essential to achieve the immediate unification of all revolutionary forces through the fusion, on the political and trade union fronts, of all workers’ groups, and the THE SECOND REPUBLIC 27
  37. 37. complete divorce of the Socialist party from any reformist or centrist tendency. Source C: Martínez Barrio, leader of the Republican Union Party, looks back at the problems of the Popular Front. If the trade union movements or the Socialist and Communist parties disagreed with our point of view, why didn’t they make it clear? Why did they agree to a pact whose fundamental aim was the consolidation of the Republican regime established in 1931 and of its constitutional charter? Certain Socialists and all the Communists were suffering from the mirage of the Russian revolution of 1917, and handed us the dismal role of Kerensky. According to them, our mission was limited to smoothing their road to power, since the possibilities of the democratic revolution in the history of the Republic had been exhausted. Source D: The pessimistic view of Gabriel Mario de Coca, a Prieto supporter. I close my work with an impression of Bolshevist victory in every sector of the party. The Socialist parliamentary minority in the Cortes will be impregnated with a strong Leninist tone. Prieto will have few deputies on his side while Besteiro will be completely isolated as a Marxist dissenter . . . The outlook that all this leaves for the future of the working class and of the nation could not be more pessimistic. The Bolshevist centipede dominates the proletariat’s horizon and Marxist analysis indicates that it is on its way to another of its resounding victories. So that if in October 1934 it only achieved a short-lived Gil Robles government accompanied by the suspension of the constitution and the most horrible, sterile shedding of working class blood, it can now be expected to complete its definitive work in the future [cataclysm]. Source E: a very different perspective from Source A, by Katharine Atholl, 1938. After the General Election of 1936 the Socialist and Communist youth organisations had united, and Caballero was working for a union of the two parties. But he was not a member of the Government, and his proposals for party fusion had been strongly opposed by the Socialist Right Wing, led by Señor Indalecio Prieto. Prieto’s following steadily gained ground, and by June had secured a majority on [this] important issue. Whatever declarations, therefore, pointing to revolutionary aims, may have been made by Caballero at this time, it is important to remember that he spoke neither as a member of the Government nor even as leader of a united Socialist Party. 28 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  38. 38. Questions 1. Explain the references to: (a) ‘Trotskyists and some anarchosyndicalists’ (Source A); (b) ‘Certain Socialists’; ‘Kerensky’ (Source C). (5) *2. Using your own knowledge, and with reference to Sources B and E, explain why: (i) ‘unification’ was limited; (ii) the PSOE was unable to become ‘the organ’ of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (8) 3. How accurate do you find de Coca’s assessment in Source D? (4) 4. Using these sources and your own knowledge, how far can it be said that the PSOE played an essentially detrimental role in the politics of the Republic, February–June 1936? (8) Worked answer *2. [For 2 (i), refer to specific contexts in which ‘unity’ was apparent, underlining its extent, limitations and impact. For 2 (ii), ensure you place the Socialist Party within the wider political arena and note the unforeseen development of September 1936, which was to find Largo Caballero – who seven months before had demanded such a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ – leading a ‘united front’ government against Franco’s Nationalist rebels.] 2 (i). At the youth-movement level, the Socialist (PSOE) and Communist (PCE) parties did ‘unite’, as the JSU (United Socialist Youth), in April 1936. But this did not make for a complete meeting of minds. Indeed, pro-Prieto members of this new organization felt alienated: the Communist element had ousted the Socialist Party youth leaders in Madrid, and pro-Prieto meetings were disrupted by militant JSU hostile to the moderate Socialist leader. (Prieto sought cooperation with the Republican government.) At the trade union level, Socialists and Communists did ‘unite’; so did the Socialist and Communist parties in Catalonia (late July 1936). This new United Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC) affiliated to the Communist Third International (Comintern). Nevertheless, elsewhere in Spain – notably in the north – the moderate Prieto wing of the Socialist Party remained strong, holding a majority on the party’s national committee. ‘Prietistas’ rejected unification with the Communist Party, the cause embraced by Largo Caballero and his more radical Socialist supporters. Furthermore, Prieto attacked ‘revolutionary euphoria’ (Carr) as a red rag to fascism. Even so, the flawed but obsessive image of a ‘communist threat’ became more deeply embedded in the minds of the Republic’s Nationalist enemies. 2 (ii). To achieve this, the Socialist Party (PSOE) would have needed to be in an effective position of power, which, for the time being, eluded it. THE SECOND REPUBLIC 29
  39. 39. It was in fact another Left Republican, Casares Quiroga, who succeeded Azaña as Prime Minister in May 1936. It is true that the now President Azaña had considered appointing Prieto to take his place as Prime Minister, but this had been blocked by Largo Caballero’s militant faction of the PSOE. Despite this, Prieto was keen to build bridges to Casares Quiroga’s government. Prieto’s position was strengthened in June 1936 when more of his supporters were elected to the PSOE’s national committee. These developments suggest that the PSOE did not fully accept the Marxist–Leninist ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ which Largo Caballero was advocating at that time. In the wider political environment, other working-class movements had their own power bases and priorities, notably the CNT (anarchist) and POUM (Marxist, strong in Catalonia), while the Stalinist PCE (Communist Party) claimed 100,000 members by July 1936. In addition, the Republican government had itself been true to the spirit of reform. Ironically, in September 1936, the erstwhile ‘Bolshevik’ Largo Caballero became Prime Minister, his cabinet containing two Communists – and, from November, Prieto and four anarchists. In an anti-fascist war to defend democracy, the immediate ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was, from the government’s perspective, irrelevant. SOURCES 2. OPPOSITION TO THE LEFT, 1931–6 Source F: from the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the Constitution (December 1931), published on 1 January 1932 in the Catholic newspaper El Debate. Freedom for all associations, even the most subversive; and extreme precautions are taken to limit the religious congregations, which devote themselves to the most rigid perfection of their members, to social charity, to generous teaching and to the functions of the priesthood . . . Notwithstanding, a distinction must be made between ‘constituted power’ and ‘legislation’ . . . The acceptance of the constituted power does not imply in any way conformity, still less obedience, to legislation which is contrary to the law of God and of the Church. But nations are curable and legislation perfectable. So, without diminution or attenuation of the respect due to the constituted power, all Catholics will consider it a religious and civic duty to display their zeal and to use all their 30 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  40. 40. influence to contain the ongoing abuses of legislation and to change for the better the unjust and damaging laws passed up to date. Source G: from the Juventud de Acción Popular (JAP, the CEDA youth movement) Manifesto, October 1932. As one of its postulates JAP still has faith in the legal struggle; but we advise the government that we are reaching the limits of its effectiveness: arbitrary suspension of the press, inhuman deportations, imprisonment . . . confiscations and the systematic persecution of the Church create a state of opinion whose consequences for the peace of Spain we would be the first to lament. Seeing that all avenues for legal action are closing, no other alternative remains but to exercise the right of legitimate defence . . . Forget rebellion. In order to act against the government we shall move within legality: but in questions of . . . defence of our principles, not one step backwards. The Youth Movement wants to demonstrate that we live within Acción Popular’s set of ideas, but also we declare that this attitude should not be taken by anybody as a sign of the cowardice of the right . . . The Youth Movement does not now raise the question of the form of government. Not because we believe this to be a matter of no account, but because we estimate that the time has not yet arrived when this matter should be taken on board. We declare ourselves, therefore, partisans of the status quo. We do seek to not impose our viewpoint. Source H: from Spanish Testament by Arthur Koestler, 1937. All the protective legislation introduced by previous governments was repealed by the Gil Robles regime. The law rendering illegal the importation of non-local labour was repealed. The law with regard to lease-hold contracts was repealed, and more than 100,000 tenant farmers were given notice. The distribution of the land among the peasants was declared null and void . . . and the land was restored to its former owners, who let it lie fallow. At the same time all unemployment relief was abolished, and the 873 million pesetas allocated to public works by the budget of 1933 was reduced in 1935 to 628 million. The unrestrained tyranny of the feudal aristocracy was driving the Spanish economic system once more toward ruin. Whilst in most European countries a gradual recovery after the slump was discernible between 1933 and 1935, the curve of unemployment in Spain mounted steadily, reaching its peak in 1935 . . . THE SECOND REPUBLIC 31
  41. 41. The masses had returned to their old state of unspeakable misery and suffering . . . This was the heritage which fell to the lot of the Spanish People’s Front in February, 1936 . . . From the very beginning, the defeated Spanish reaction concentrated all its efforts on making the world believe that Communism had come to power in Spain. It launched one of the most perfidious propaganda campaigns Europe has ever known – and one of the most successful. Source I: from the National Front (Bloque Nacional) Manifesto, December 1935. What we want is an old, time-honoured State with roots in the history of Spain. This State, which will respect all differences between individuals and provinces, must have the strength to extirpate the anti-national forces that, like a disease, threaten to sap the life of the Fatherland. Therefore, it must be an authoritarian, corporatist, and unifying State . . . The new State will [restore] to all Spaniards peace and order. This task demands . . . the formation of a wide coalition of counterrevolutionary forces, acting on a well-defined platform . . . that will enable those elected to pursue with total unanimity the full implementation of its policies in parliament. Such a platform must have as its foundation the replacement of the 1931 Constitution, whose legal status has already been undermined [deleted by censor], as well as the extirpation of Marxism, separatism, and laicism from national life. Source J: José Calvo Sotelo speaks in the Cortes, 16 June 1936. No more strikes, no more lock-outs, no more usurious interest, no more of capitalism’s abusive financial formulae, no more starvation wages, no more political salaries gained by happy accident, no more anarchic liberty, no more criminal loss of production, for national production is above all classes, all parties, and all interests. Many call that the fascist state. If it is, then I who share that idea . . . and believe in it, declare myself fascist. Questions 1. What is meant by: (a) ‘ongoing abuses of legislation’ (Source F); (b) ‘corporatist’ (Source I)? (2) 2. (a) What can be inferred about Koestler’s deep feelings in Source H? (3) 32 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  42. 42. (b) How would a member of the ‘defeated Spanish reaction [right]’ challenge Koestler’s attempt to downplay the significance of communism? (4) 3. What questions would a historian wish to ask of Calvo Sotelo’s claim to be ‘fascist’? (Source J) (3) *4. Comment on the value of Sources F and G for a historian studying opposition to the left, 1931–6. (6) 5. ‘Opposition to the left during the period April 1931 to June 1936 became steadily more militant.’ Discuss this view, using these sources and your own knowledge. (7) Worked answer *4. [Ensure you pick up on attribution (provenance) and that you confront the limitations as well as the benefits of these sources. This will require some knowledge of context.] Source F presents an ‘autobiographical’ image of an insecure Church: one that feels itself not only besieged by anti-clerical legislation, but victimized by a biased constitution (paragraphs 1 and 2). It is clear that the bishops’ stand on the Republic is ‘accidentalist’, desiring change from within: they exhort their readers to apply all possible pressure to have draconian laws repealed. The provenance tells us that the letter was published in El Debate. This provenance underlines lay Catholics’ support for the bishops’ denunciation of the Republic in 1931–2, a republic that, it is implied, is subverting traditional Spain and the religious means to uphold it. However, in this edited extract, the historian misses the full force of the bishops’ attack, especially on secularist education policies. Moreover, it should not be assumed that all practising Catholics were anti-Republic. Conversely, Canon Albarrán condoned the notion of a violent uprising against the Republic, which makes Source F look positively restrained. Finally, it should be remembered that governments proved friendly to the Catholic Church between November 1933 and February 1936: to this extent, too, the evidence in Source F should be treated with caution. Source G can be taken as an authoritative statement of JAP policy in the early years of the Republic. (Acción Popular had until April 1932 been known as Acción Nacional; from March 1933 it would be the keystone of CEDA.) Source G denounces what it sees as arbitrary and autocratic behaviour by Azaña’s government and a partisan judiciary. But the tone is ambiguous and the historian would need to be alert to this. ‘Forget rebellion’ sounds ‘accidentalist’; but ‘all avenues for legal THE SECOND REPUBLIC 33
  43. 43. action are closing’ suggests that a future assault on the Republican state per se cannot be ruled out. Thus, for the historian, Source G is a pointer to the JAP’s latent ‘catastrophism’. This is confirmed by later events: in 1935 JAP called for an authoritarian system and for Marxists and Freemasons to be wiped out; by the spring of 1936 it was marching en masse into the ranks of the Falange. Finally, Sources F and G express only a corridor of views held by two groups and their supporters in 1932. For a fuller picture of opposition to the left during 1931–6 it would be necessary to consult evidence from, for example, such militant monarchists as Calvo Sotelo; the Falange; and anti-Republic factions within the armed forces. 34 THE SECOND REPUBLIC
  44. 44. 3 THE MILITARY RISING BACKGROUND NARRATIVE Starting in 1931, a controversial agenda of military reform was pursued by War Minister Manuel Azaña, himself a keen student of military history. His strategic objective was an army that was financially sound, politically neutral and streamlined for war. But were Azaña’s reforms an assault on inefficiency and inertia as he stated, or an attack on the fatherland and its keystone, the army itself? In June 1931 Azaña closed the ‘reactionary’ Zaragoza Military Academy and in September of the same year deprived the army of much of its judicial role as the Supreme Military Council was dissolved and the captains-general abolished. Many right-wingers were moved to less important posts or sacked. The army remained underequipped, notably the artillery. 1 In January 1933 the widely dreaded ‘review of promotions’ investigated those officers whose careers had been blessed by the Rivera dictatorship (1923–30). Although far fewer were affected than was feared, the myth of a persecuted army was reinforced. Reassuringly for the army, the Radical leader Lerroux came to power in November 1933 at the head of an increasingly rightist government. Those involved in General Sanjurjo’s bungled coup attempt (August 1932) were pardoned. General Franco was promoted to Major General with a special brief to lend expertise on military exercises – a dress-rehearsal for suppressing future left-wing rebellions: when the Asturias Rising broke out in October 1934 it was the Spanish Foreign Legion and Moorish troops whom Franco used on the mainland to such ruthless effect – for the first but not for the last time.2 THE MILITARY RISING 35
  45. 45. As a reward for his role at Asturias, Franco was made Commander-in-Chief of Spanish Armed Forces in Morocco (his alma mater) and, when Gil Robles became Minister of War in May 1935, he became Chief of the General Staff. Other generals such as Fanjul and Goded were plotting a coup should the left be returned to power, but the increasingly influential and prestigious Franco had sound professional reasons for not becoming involved. Nevertheless, by the time the ‘Popular Front’ came to power in February 1936, preparations for a military uprising had begun. The new government seemed obsessively biased against the right: Prime Minister Azaña pardoned those workers and left-wing soldiers involved in the Asturias and other risings; the reform programme of 1931–3 was revived; and Franco and Mola were redeployed, with the aim of neutralizing their potential as plotters: Franco to the Canary Islands and Mola to Pamplona in Navarre (conveniently far from Madrid; but, for Mola, conveniently close to Carlist conspirators). At the rural grass roots in this spring of 1936 peasants were seizing land en masse. Right-wing newspapers were promoting an atmosphere of impending doom, encouraging the army right in its plots, the conservative classes praying for their success. With the abandonment in April of one such plot by an ailing general, Rodriguez del Barrio, it was General Mola who was designated coordinator of a future army rising. The month of May began with massed parades by the left and a general strike invoked by the anarchist CNT. Very soon now Mola would reveal to his co- conspirators his master-plan – part centripetal (starting in the provinces), part centrifugal (emanating from Madrid). The growth of Aragonese and Castilian separatism in June 1936 intensified the pressure for a pre-emptive putsch.3 But, as has been seen, Prime Minister Casares Quiroga seemed blind to rumours that such a threat was looming. The murder of the leading ‘catastrophist’ right-winger Calvo Sotelo on 13 July finally wedded Franco to the rebellion. On 19 July Franco arrived in Morocco, and by the next day most of the mainland garrisons had risen. However, they only achieved partial success. About 70 per cent of Spain remained beyond their grasp, including the main industrial areas, notably in the Basque Country and Catalonia. 36 THE MILITARY RISING
  46. 46. ANALYSIS (1): WHY, AND TO WHAT EXTENT, DID THE ARMY OPPOSE THE SECOND REPUBLIC? The Spanish army’s deep resentment of politicians went back many decades, not least to the imperial disasters of 1898. So did the army’s intervention in high politics – and its suppression of grassroots left-wing revolts. However, the history of the Rivera dictatorship and its short- lived successors, as well as that of the Second Republic, showed that many in the armed forces were themselves left-wing, for example, Ramón Franco, anarchist aviator brother of the future Chief of State. Francisco Franco himself was ambivalent about the peacetime Republic (April 1931– July 1936). On the one hand, he derided Republican officers promoted during the ‘two reformist years’ (1931–3); on the other, he had reason to be grateful for the ‘bienio negro’ (black biennium) which followed.4 Indeed, Franco was to play a significant auxiliary role in government during that time. At the outset, it had been two leading generals, Sanjurjo (the Director General of the Civil Guard) and Berenguer (Minister of War) who had in April 1931 made the Republic possible by not standing by the King and not obstructing the popular will. However, from the first weeks of the Republic military plots to overthrow it were being hatched. Military hostility to the Republic reflected both public and private concerns. ‘Publicly’, the early Republican governments had displaced the monarchy, attacked the Church and landownership, and threatened to degrade the wholeness of Spain with their policy of autonomy for Catalonia. The constitution declared the Republic to be a ‘Republic of workers’, which alienated the conservatives. Furthermore, communism, much less subversively influential than Franco thought, became the future Caudillo’s bête rouge as he consumed vast quantities of anti-Comintern propaganda. But what made the ‘red threat’ only too real was the revolution that was occurring in the Civil War Republican zone from July 1936, a factor that inevitably strengthened the Nationalists’ casus belli. Freemasonry, a secret order which cut across national loyalties, was another scapegoat for the army right’s resentment, while Hugh Thomas makes the interesting additional point that Sanjurjo, Mola and Franco saw the Spanish mainland as a Morocco writ large, ‘infested by rebellious tribes masquerading as political parties’.5 Gil Robles had seen governments with himself as Prime Minister as ipso facto in the national interest, but he was not made Premier, in 1933, or in May or December 1935, much to the chagrin of the army right. Even worse, another right-wing politician with a messianic claim to lead, THE MILITARY RISING 37